Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Ralph W. Haskins

Committee Members

Stanley J. Folmsbee, LeRoy P. Graf


Preface: Tennessee has had its share of notable sons, most of whom have found their Boswell and had their deeds and contributions duly recorded. A striking exception is A. O. P. Nicholson. State legislator, U. S. senator, and state chief justice, as well as the holder of numerous minor posts, Nicholson has never rated even a scholarly monograph. Although he may be an apt subject for a biography, the primary emphasis in this study is on the political aspects of his career, with some attention to his role as editor and jurist. Since time and space do not permit, his legal career, his journalism, his presidency of the State Bank of Tennessee, and his role in developing the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad are not studied in depth.

The major reason for the neglect of Nicholson has been the paucity of personal materials. Though Mrs. Nicholson managed to keep most of her husband's correspondence and records until her death in 1894, they were afterwards scattered. A few documents and Bible records, still in family hands, have been collected and copied by Miss Mary Nicholson, of Columbia, a great-granddaughter, who generously gave of her interest and enthusiasm of the present project. The largest collection of Nicholson letters, mostly of a political nature, are dispersed throughout the collections in the New-York Historical Society. These have been assembled on microfilm by the Tennessee State Library and Archives by Dr. Joseph H. Parks, of the University of Georgia, who made them available for use in this thesis. Photostats from the James K. Polk Papers and the Andrew Jackson Papers in the Library of Congress, in the possession of Mr. William B. Nicholson, of Nashville, were kindly loaned on an indefinite basis and thus materially aide this study. Contemporary newspapers and county records provided two rich primary sources and the numerous volumes of the Tennessee supreme court reports were indispensable for his later career.

For ease in handling the material certain procedures were followed. Since nearly forty years of Nashville and Columbia newspapers were used, the titles varied, Winifred Gregory's Union List of Newspapers was consulted as a guide. The Republican Banner and Nashville Whig, for example, will appear throughout the thesis as the Nashville Republican Banner. Dr. Parks has published in the Tennessee Historical Quarterly many of the Nicholson letters in the New-York Historical Society collections. In order to avoid expanded footnotes, these articles are listed only in the bibliography. For the purposes of this study all of the New-York Historical Society letters will be cited as Nicholson Letters with one exception. Any Andrew Johnson item, no matter what the original source, was used from the Andrew Johnson Project at the University of Tennessee.

Besides individuals already acknowledged, I would like to mention Mrs. Frank L. Owsley, of the Tennessee State Library and Archives, who was extremely helpful in making materials from the state library available. I wish to extend thanks also to my readers, Dr. Stanley J. Folmsbee and Dr. LeRoy P. Graf, for their many useful comments and emendations. I am particularly grateful to my advisor, Dr. Ralph W. Haskins, whose guidance and advice, so often solicited, were of particular benefit in matters of both style and content.

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